The Horse's Ha, Nathan Salsburg Member Picks Recommended Soundboard Image

When: Thu., Aug. 22, 9 p.m. 2013

In the PR materials for their new album, Waterdrawn (Fluff & Gravy), Chicago duo the Horse's Ha are said to have taken inspiration from British folk. The press release cites Shirley Collins and Davy Graham, and of course guitarist and singer Jim Elkington (half the duo) is British, but it would nonetheless be a mistake to read too much into that claim of influence. Elkington's musical partner here, Janet Beveridge Bean, is American through and through, and it seems obvious that Emmylou Harris and Hazel Dickens resonate with her more than anyone from the UK, though she sings with a delicacy to match the finest lace Honiton ever produced. Some of the phrases the Horse's Ha have written seem to evoke the English countryside from centuries ago, but they’re often undercut by references much closer to home: "Hidey Hole" opens with the couplet "Control your happenstance or would you now prefer / To make your getaway along the Edens Spur." And while some of the lyrics seem infatuated with the sound of old British vernacular, the music is rooted in cosmic country and American folk-rock—its British flavors (the mannered vocal delivery, some of the song forms) are integrated smoothly into its gentle, agnostic twang, without bald imitation or clunky playacting. Waterdrawn uses stripped-down instrumentation compared to the group's 2009 debut, Of the Cathmawr Yards: Bean and Elkington flesh out their guitar playing with judicious contributions from cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and bassist Nick Macri (both former band members) as well as violinist Jean Cook and clarinetist Jacob Daneman. Bean and Elkington caress each other's voices, one high and the other low, and they fit together more empathically than ever before. —Peter Margasak

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